Knock-offs and fake products are everywhere. Live in a major metro area? There are probably different streets or shops in your city that are notorious for selling fakes — and you can easily find these items for sale across the internet, too.
Tech devices, high-end luxury items, or trendy makeup or hair products are all targets of reproductions or fakes. All you have to do is scroll the listings on Amazon to find a few. The common issue with these types of products is that they’re inferior to the originals — or don’t work at all.
And now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, fake cleaning supplies and PPE have become more common. An uptick in COVID-19 cases has caused buyers to wipe the shelves of disinfecting products — and scammers have taken note. Let’s take a look at what the issue is and what the FTC is doing to stop these scammers from preying on unsuspecting victims.
The issue with fake cleaning product websites
Toilet paper isn’t the only thing that’s in high demand these days. The world is dealing with a huge new uptick of COVID cases, which has led to a shortage of cleaning supplies in stores and online. And, when there is high demand, scammers will try to profit from it.
The FTC just announced a complaint against scammers creating fake websites to sell counterfeit cleaning products. They use spoofed websites, which have real product names in the web addresses and real product images, to trick people into thinking they’re buying cleaning supplies from the companies’ official sites.
According to the FTC, since at least July 2020, the defendants’ spoofed websites have been targeting people who desperately need cleaning and disinfecting products. The scammers are brazen in their efforts, too. They’re using well-known brands like Clorox and Lysol to pull these scams off.
None of the sites are owned by, affiliated with, or authorized by the companies that make Clorox and Lysol. And if you order from these sites? Well, you won’t get what you ordered or expected — if you get anything at all.
Scammers were illegally charging consumers thousands of dollars for Clorox and Lysol products that were never delivered. In some cases, people received fake products instead.
When victims tried to seek a refund from the website, it was gone. Sometimes in a matter of days or weeks. These scammers didn’t stop selling fake products, though. They just moved to a new website with a different URL instead.
The websites named in the FTC’s complaint are:
This issue comes when the demand for cleaning products is high and supply is limited. As cases continue to rise, these types of issues will likely become more prevalent, too.
Scammers always look for opportunities like these — and with so many people turning to the web to find supplies they need during the pandemic, it’s become the perfect venue for ripping off consumers.
The FTC is actively working to shut down the sites and stop the defendants from setting up future sites. Its goal is to help protect you from this kind of scam and help you protect yourself, too.
How to stay protected from these scams
You need to take steps to protect yourself from scams like this. It’s just one of many COVID-19 scams we’ve seen in recent months, and as the pandemic rages on, there will be more to contend with. You don’t want to get caught up in one of the 10 COVID-19 scams people are falling for.
Before you order any cleaning or out-of-stock items from an unfamiliar online store, you should take note of these tips from the FTC:
- Be wary of sites offering out-of-stock items. When trying to find items that you know are in high demand and short supply, you should be extra careful when buying online, especially if the seller is offering items that are generally out of stock elsewhere.
- Look at the terms of the sale. Calculate the total price, including taxes, shipping, and handling. Find out when you can expect your delivery. If you have to return the item, can you get a refund? Who pays for return shipping? Is there a restocking fee?
- Pay by credit card. You’ll get protections under federal law, so you don’t have to pay for merchandise you ordered but didn’t receive.
- Consider a chargeback. If you have a problem with an online purchase, try to work it out with the seller, but remember: you have the right to reverse an unauthorized or fraudulent charge directly with your credit card issuer by filing a chargeback dispute.
- If you suspect a scam, let the FTC know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. For more on avoiding COVID-related scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus.
It would be nice if we didn’t have to worry about schemes like this during a pandemic. Sadly, thieves have no scruples and actually thrive during times like these by playing on people’s fears and hoping to catch them off guard. As long as you stay informed on scams making the rounds, you will avoid falling victim.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.